FIFA Will Be First To Use AI In Upcoming World Cup

The most popular technological demand in U.S. sports is, I believe, a chip in NFL football that would modernize measurements.

How do we still have officials running in from the sideline to eyeball how far a running back advanced the ball when his knee went down when he’s surrounded by a pile of defenders? How can we use that method for determining if he reached the line-to-gain on a crucial third or fourth down? Or even more importantly if he broke the plane of the goal line?

It’s somewhat quaint part of the game, but with so much at stake it seems like modern technology should offer a better solution. (The USFL had a chip in its footballs and measured electronically in its inaugural season.)

Same with the strike zone in Major League Baseball and the potential for robo-umps, though I’d initially have a harder time with the loss of power for a home-plate umpire. Currently, electronic strike zones are a minor-league experiment that seems destined to be used in major league ballparks.

While incredibly long reply delays can make me doubt my primary directive in those situations, I generally stick with this: Do whatever it takes to get calls right.

Remarkably, FIFA may be leading the way here.

Soccer’s (corrupt) governing body, FIFA, is on track to use artificial intelligence-driven semi-automated offside technology with a video assistant referee (VAR) at the World Cup in November and December in Qatar.

FIFA Will Be First To Use AI In Upcoming World Cup
Referee Wilmar Roldan checks the VAR for a possible penalty for Ecuador during a match between Ecuador and Brazil as part of FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar Qualifiers at Rodrigo Paz Delgado Stadium on January 27, 2022, in Quito, Ecuador. (Photo by Rodrigo Buendia-Pool/Getty Images).

The multi-camera technology will detect the ball and player skeletons to determine what body part is furthest forward when a pass is delivered creates a potential offsides situation.

The offside technology is only helps the referee and his assistants. He will still make the ruling.

Crucial, tight calls can be tough and additional information is a good thing, right? It’s also a crutch. If something looks too close to call and the AI says yes or no, going with the AI gets officials off the hook both in the moment and for second-guessing.

Presuming it works properly – a big presumption – fans and media will increase their clamoring for more.

If we see the world’s biggest sporting event use such an advance successfully, when we see a questionable spot during a football game or a replayed strike that was a ball. We’re going to say, “If FIFA could use technology to judge offside in the World Cup Final, surely the NFL or MLB could be using it here.”

FIFA Will Be First To Use AI In Upcoming World Cup
A countdown installation for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday, June 23, 2022. About 1.5 million fans, a little more than half the population of Qatar, are expected to descend upon the tiny Gulf state for this year’s FIFA World Cup football tournament. (Photo via Getty Images)

It will all make for a brave new world that extends well beyond replay.

Yes, I want the calls right.

But maybe we’ll be giving away more than we can imagine.

As Aldous Huxley wrote in 1932’s Brave New World: “being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune.”

Paul Kuharsky hosts OutKick360. Read more of him at PaulKuharsky.com.


Written by Paul Kuharsky

Paul Kuharsky is an award-winning writer who has covered the NFL for over 22 years in California, Texas, and Tennessee, and also is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After ESPN, PK came to join the longest running trio in Nashville Sports Talk in 2012.

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